Mumford & Sons singer talks ‘Wilder Mind,’ touring the U.S. and David Bowie

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The band has played theaters, parks and now arenas in Atlanta. Photo: James Minchin III
Mumford & Sons visit Gwinnett for shows April 11-12. Photo: Ty Johnson

Mumford & Sons visit Gwinnett for shows April 11-12. Photo: Ty Johnson

Between 2009 and 2012, Mumford & Sons achieved the kind of ubiquity reserved for the Adeles and Biebers of the industry.

With a trifecta of multi-platinum singles – “Little Lion Man,” “The Cave,” “I Will Wait” – the British quartet with a penchant for making pub-stomper folk rock sound contemporary stormed the charts and the touring circuit.

In Atlanta, Mumford & Sons graduated from the Buckhead Theatre to the Fox Theatre to Centennial Olympic Park in less than three years.

On April 11-12, they’ll bring their three-album catalog to Infinite Energy Center in Gwinnett.

After a whirlwind couple of years, last May the band – frontman/guitarist Marcus Mumford, bassist Ted Dwane, guitarist/banjoist Winston Marshall and keyboardist Ben Lovett – released “Wilder Mind,” which replaced banjos with electric guitars and earned Mumford & Sons plenty of new fans while puzzling some of the faithful.

Calling in from London last month, where he was taking a break from a studio session with the band for a project that turned out to be the Record Store Day special release “There Will Be Time” with Baaba Maal and the Very Best, the thoughtful Mumford discussed the band’s shift in sound, why they tinker with their set lists and his grasp of American geography.

The band has played theaters, parks and now arenas in Atlanta. Photo: James Minchin III

The band has played theaters, parks and now arenas in Atlanta. Photo: James Minchin III

Q: The tour is called “An Arrow Through the Heartland.” Do you have a particular affinity for the South and Midwest? I know you’ve always gotten a crazy reception here, going back to a 2010 show at the Buckhead Theatre.

A: America is such a vast country that it gets generalized too often. I like spending time in specific areas and the diversity that it brings. I enjoy spending time on the coasts, and as well, there is something unique about the South, and the Midwest. It’s so huge and so varied and you can’t just say you’re going to America. The choices are almost endless. You know those websites that give you general knowledge quizzes? I managed to name 49 of the 50 states – I left out Idaho.

Q: You’re playing two arena shows here, which is an impressive accomplishment.

A: Most bands I know from the U.K. have done a few tours of the States doing clubs and bars and theaters a few times and then made the jump to arenas. But we only did one tour of each. We did a lot of East and West Coast cities. I love dive bars, so that was fun. Then we did one theater tour and jumped pretty quickly to outdoor venues. Things moved more quickly than we had planned. You don’t want to exclude people, and it’s nice to have a full room, but you don’t want to have an oversized room. We’d rather play where more people can come.

Q: Are you a band that tinkers a lot with the live show?

A: We get bored pretty quickly so we change the set list every night. We don’t have the kind of production that relies on big pyro cues so we can afford to change the setlist. The arrangements of the songs we don’t (mess) with too much. We’ve been integrating old songs and new songs into the set and have been really enjoying playing the “Wilder Mind” songs. We thought people eventually would like them, but that those who had seen us before might find it hard to transition (to the new sound). I think the (new) songs are way better than the songs on “Babel,” and the response has been really cool. The shows have been better than ever. We just got back from South Africa and I’m itching to go back on tour, so that’s a good a sign. By July when we’ve played 100 gigs I might feel differently!

Q: You won the album of the year Grammy Award for “Babel” (in 2013). How much pressure did that put on the band for the follow-up?

A: That whole period of time went really fast and we never really digested much of it. At the time it seemed pretty ridiculous what was going on and we still see it as pretty ridiculous! I’m more excited to be in the band now than I was then. I’m certainly glad that I haven’t built my life on that time. Those things are so whimsical and award shows are a popularity contest. I don’t put too much emphasis on those awards. They’re huge in the media and used to sell records, but I don’t think you can define your career that way. You define by the reaction you get from fans and the songs that you write.

Q: Is that one reason why you shifted your sound to something with more rock edge for “Wilder Mind”?

A: We’ve got a really cool mix of tastes in the band. We realized that dream to make music that could compete on the radio sonically. We love playing those songs live. It wasn’t a huge strategic move. We just started writing some songs for the new record. Probably our next record will be further away from “Wilder Mind”, I don’t know how yet, but we won’t do the same thing again. We just feel a sense of urgency to play a different thing. The changes in technology have been great for musicians, but you can become muddled in your haste. Having three other guys you trust more than yourself helps.

Q: The band is part of the David Bowie tribute in New York (which took place March 31-April 1). How big of an influence was he for you?

A: You can’t grow up in the U.K. without Bowie as an influence. He was always kind of untouchable when I was growing up. He wasn’t someone I could relate to, but that made him cool — he was this artistic genius. Oasis or the Beatles were more like lads, but he was just this other being.


CONCERT PREVIEW

Mumford & Sons

7:30 p.m. April 11-12. $59.50. Infinite Energy Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 770-626-2464, www.infiniteenergycenter.com.

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